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I know, it’s been a while. Not just for my blog, but writing in general. Life has a way of doing that.

On Friday night, the hubby and I headed to a baseball game. We’d planned to take our youngest, but he got sick. So, I offered the ticket to a friend of mine. She was super excited (and repaid us in bath bombs – thoroughly addicted to her stuff!), so off we went.

I was feeling happy by the time we got to our seats (first row, too!). I’d been able to walk from the train to the stadium, then down to our seats, without stopping. A year ago, that wouldn’t have happened. Amazing how much difference 60lbs can make.

Anyway, at some point my friend wanted to go get some food. Back up to the concourse we went. One of the things she got was fried grasshoppers to put on her tacos. We arrived back at our seats, and I agreed to try one.

Not high on my ‘need to eat this again’ list, so you know. More like ‘nope, never again’.

After I finished washing the taste out of my mouth with some hot cider, I said something in passing that a single grasshopper wasn’t nearly as scary as submitting my first book to a publisher. If can do that…if I can go through surgery and finally start get my weight going in the right direction…a single grasshopper is nothing.

That’s it, right there. The simple act of finishing writing a book takes dedication. Checking on the submission requirements, doing our homework, and having the courage to hit send on that email – not just once but dozens of times – is bravery.

When you get that contract, you’re not at the end of the work. There’s still the promoting and marketing. But we’re scared to get out there and make cold calls. Get disappointed when sales don’t meet our hopes. And we give up.

Thing is, you did the hardest part and wrote the book. You did the work to find it a home. Giving up now because you don’t want to put the time into promoting it is like that fried grasshopper.

You’ve come so far. This is the easy part.

BB

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I’m going to be rather blunt today. It’s a day for it.

There’s more than 1 puzzle piece you have to look at to be a successful author. Here’s a short list.

  1. Marketing
  2. Ebooks
  3. Content
  4. Cover
  5. Blurb
  6. Print books

You can’t obsess over just one part of that and put all your hopes and dreams on it. Telling yourself that, if you just get your book on the shelf at B&N, you’ll be found by readers is lying to yourself. Because you’re going to make more money off of ebook sales. And B&N won’t host you just because you want them to.

I spend 6 hours in a B&N every month, trying to help them sell my books. I got lucky. My local store was open to bringing in my books, even though they’re POD. Most stores won’t touch POD books. I’m not getting paid to be there. I got my royalties from the books when they ordered them initially. I get no bonuses. I’m there because I feel an obligation to help the store that took a chance on me. If I sell enough books, they’ll order more and then I get to see more royalties. That’s how it works.

Each author defines success differently. Some are fine with the knowledge of knowing they have one title up for sale. It doesn’t sell. If they have a publisher, they’ll end up being dropped at some point simply because they aren’t out there trying to market their book. Some expect to be on the NYT best seller list with their first title, and get pulled up short when reality doesn’t meet that expectation. Still others won’t be happy until they see their book on the shelf at B&N.

There are no shortcuts for new authors. You have to put in the work, and deal with disappointment. You will be told no a lot. By publishers, agents, and bookstores. Some things are simply impossible. Having your books be part of a print run when the publisher only does POD books is one of those impossibilities. Expecting original art when your publisher tells you they don’t do that is being totally unrealistic.

New authors are not in a position to make demands. Stop thinking your book, no matter how good it is, is going to propel you to fame and fortune within 2 months of release. Get ready to do the work – all of it – and don’t let yourself buy into the falsehood that there’s a magic bullet. Because there isn’t one. If there was, I wouldn’t be driving a 12 year old minivan. LOL

BB

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Ten years ago, I wasn’t writing. I still listened to the voice in my head that said I would never do anything close to good enough for a publisher, so it wasn’t worth trying.

And so my muse stayed quiet, locked in her cage.

We’d been playing in a Dungeons and Dragons game for over 2 years. With no warning, the entire party was either killed or imprisoned. Saving rolls weren’t allowed, escape impossible. Characters that had been part of our lives once a week for over 130 weeks were suddenly no more.

It hurt. For all of us in the group, it was a shock. We mourned not just the game closing but not spending our Saturdays together any more. My husband, who did a smaller scale campaign, invited everyone over to our house. We used that second session as a way to take the bitterness of the night out of our mouths.

A few weeks later, he worked it so that my character was resurrected in his game. In the context of the day, we couldn’t really explain everything that went on. As we headed to bed, I said I’d write an email the next day to everyone so they were brought up to speed.

When I finished the email, I was terrified. What started as an explanation ended up being a short story. From that one short story, a career was born.

Last week, my 20th title went up for sale. “Guarding Amber” is out. My first book came out in March of 2012. My only regret over the last decade is listening to those who didn’t know what they were talking about.

We can’t go back and change the past. Even if that was possible, I wouldn’t. The past is what makes today possible. The things I experienced, good and bad, shape my writing today.

If you’re discouraged, keep trying. If sales suck, shrug it off. If your family or friends try to cut you down, find the strength you have inside. You have to find your faith in yourself, in your talent, to weather the storm of being an author. Having a way with words isn’t enough. You’re going to have years where you’re wondering why you started on this road. This is not a job for everyone. Because you’re not going to be paid enough to support yourself for close to a decade.

Over the last decade, I’ve come out of my shell. I’ve stopped listening to those who said no and found the way to say yes to myself. I’ve gone from someone who hid in the shadows to being able to talk to a room full of people who wanted to get where I was. I’ve been told I inspire people to keep trying.

I’ve learned so much since I found the key to unlock my muse from her cage. I think ‘Guarding Amber’ is an example of how much I’ve grown as an author. I hope you will as well.

myBook.to/guardingamber

Guarding amber v 10

BB

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Happy New Year! Took last week off for the holiday, head back to work tomorrow, but I’m more relaxed now.

Update for those of you who read my books! ‘Guarding Amber’ is done with editing! I hope to have it up for sale before mid-January. It’s my 20th title, which amazes me.

I want to talk about the business side of things. Most new authors sign a contract and don’t understand what it says. They only think that they’re with a traditional publisher and not a vanity press, so all should be good.

This is a business. Publishers invest money in your book, pay up front costs like making a cover, having it edited, and sending it past a proofreader. As such, they want your book to be successful because the only way they’re making back that investment is if it sells well. They take a risk on a new author, hoping that what they put into the book will be recouped once it’s up for sale.

Reputable publishers spell this out in the contract. It’s up to the author to read and understand it before they sign it. Percentages are spelled out, what each party is responsible for, etc.

Publishers don’t have to give you your books for free. They’re a business, looking to pay their operating costs and salaries. They do this by selling books. Screaming at someone that they’re ‘cheating’ or ‘stealing’ from you simply because they made money off your book shows your ignorance of the business. Your publisher making money is not an act of piracy. Any comparison along that line only shows that you’re a jackass.

If you’re someone who doesn’t like the idea of somebody else making money off of your book, then don’t sign with a traditional publisher. Self publish, or pay a vanity press, and go it alone. Signing a contract with a traditional publisher means they’re going to make money off of your book. Period.

For most first books, it won’t be much of a profit if any. The majority of first time authors won’t earn back what the publisher invested in the lifetime of the initial contract. An author who starts to complain about the publisher making even a dime off of them doesn’t get renewed.

Being a published author through a traditional house is a long term commitment for both parties. Authors have to keep promoting and writing if they want their sales to increase, and the publisher to renew their contracts. Publishers have to be up front and timely with both statements and payouts. It’s a system built on mutual trust.

Think of it this way. When you go to a bookstore, do you really think that the full amount goes to the author? Of course not, because the bookstore needs to make a profit or it wouldn’t be in business. So, they must buy the books at a discount. How can the publisher pay their editors or staff? They have to make a profit off of what they’re selling. Which is books.

This is a business, not a something for nothing scam. Sure, those exist. Friends of mine have been inundated with emails and such lately for them. Everything from ‘we’re starting up a library and want to feature your books – but I need your information and you don’t need mine’ to ‘enter our contest – there’s a modest $250 fee – please ignore that it’s brand new/no history of it online/no one’s ever won/the payout is exposure or $15’ emails.

Educate yourself before you sign that contract. Because, once you do, you’re bound to the terms. Even the ones you don’t like.

BB

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I’m a bit off kilter today. Some of it may be related to seeing ‘The Last Jedi’ last night. No spoilers from me, I loved it. Even if I’m still feeling a bit of shock from the ending. To be honest, that’s a sign of excellence. The team – actors, writers, producers, director, all of them – elicited a huge emotional response from me. The author side of me is in awe, and appreciative of what kind of work that took.

I want to get real, though, about the current state of publishing. This is 2017, almost 2018. It is not 1983. We no longer have to wait a year between hard cover and paper back releases. We don’t live our lives at a leisurely pace. It’s go-go-go, do what you need done, move on.

Authors are still seen as celebrities, yes. There’s that sense of glamour associated to the job title. That hasn’t gone away.

What needs to go away, however, is the overly entitled, egocentric, petulant attitude of authors who think they’re running the show. When, in fact, they are not.

Don’t be the diva. Don’t email publishers and agents, demanding that your every whim be granted. Because you haven’t earned it. No one in this business gives a crap if you have appearances in your local area and sold over 1,000 copies over the course of five years. You know why? Because anyone that actually TRIES to promote can do those things.

You want special treatment? You want to have publishing executives cowering in fear if they upset you? Then go sell 1 million copies on the first day of your release.

I did the math. I’ve sold over 2,000 copies of my books over the last 5 1/2 years. I KNOW how little money that actually is. I know that, the reason I did get that much is because I worked my fingers off and promoted. I kept writing. I worked WITH my publisher instead of making unreasonable demands that I didn’t have the sales to back.

What sells books, beyond a good story, is name recognition. It’s that magical moment when readers look at your name and recognize it in relation to books. That. Takes. Time.

So, no, I’m NOT going to quiver in my boots if you scream at me via email that your book needs to have a certain font that’s not our standard. Or that us not promoting your book over the 1,000+ other titles we have is treating you poorly. The industry is now built on the success and instant availability of ebooks. It’s built on home shopping that makes it possible to order a book today and have it on your doorstep tomorrow. Your title is competing with up to a thousand others that got put up for sale on any given day.

The successful authors of modern fiction. The J. K. Rowlings and Stephen Kings. They’re not jerks. They are the top 1% of the business and don’t scream and make threats to their publishers or agents.

What the Hades do you think gives you any right to be verbally abusive to someone simply because your expectations were unrealistic?

BB

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Hey everyone! It’s gearing up to be a super busy weekend. 6 days until we see the new ‘Star Wars’ movie!

Yeah, that’s my fandom of choice. We can discuss that another time, though.

Everyone talks about being creative, finding inspiration from the things around them. You can read countless stories on social media about how a writer looked at a situation, did a mental, ‘what if’, and turned it into a story.

The thing is, inspiration isn’t enough to make it as an author.

You need the self discipline and determination to sit yourself down and finish the story.

You need the critical eye and willingness to realize that the first draft is just that – a draft – and changes need to be made. Some will be minor, others major. But no manuscript is print ready from the gate.

You need the fortitude to do your research and compile a list of agents and publishers.

You need courage to submit you m/s to said publishers and agents.

You need patience and the ability to put your ego on the shelf when edits come back.

You need the mental stamina and strength to promote your book.

This is work. Plain and simple. It’s not as easy as sitting down to a computer or notebook and vomiting words onto a page. If you can’t get find that strength within yourself, you’ll not like the job.

Don’t get me wrong. The highs of being a published author are AMAZING. Having someone get excited because they met ‘a real author’ or seeing them hug one of your books after you signed it gives you some of the best warm fuzzies you’ll ever feel. And this is one of the few industries where the nice guy finishes first. But you have to be strong, have to draw on a mental toughness every single day. Bad reviews are going to undercut your confidence. Months without sales will make your stomach fall to your feet. Authors pour our souls into our books. We breathe life into our characters and work hard to create worlds that readers will be lost in. When those bad reviews or no sales months come, they hurt.

You can’t simply wait for inspiration to strike. You have to roll up your sleeves and work if you want magic to happen. If you seriously think all you have to do is write, you haven’t been reading my blog long. LOL.

BB

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Hey everyone! Really glad right now that there’s no video involved with this blog. LOL. Just got finished with some time on my bike, and I’m a hot, sweaty mess. LOL.

While I was pedaling, I reminded myself that I don’t like to live my life by excuses. Not with my weight any more. In the last six months since my surgery, I’ve learned to embrace the need for exercise each day. Even adjusted my sleep schedule to fit a 15 minute bike ride in every morning before I get working. Why? Because I have to do the work if I want to get to a healthy weight. It didn’t come on overnight, and it’s not going away that way, either.

The same ideal can be applied to promoting and writing books. I can list dozens of excuses why I didn’t promote today, or put off writing, without even thinking about it. But that’s what they are. Excuses. There’s hardly a good reason among them. It comes down to two hard and fast rules.

Books won’t write themselves. I have to sit down and do it.

Books won’t magically start to sell overnight. I have to promote them.

That’s it. If I want my books to sell, I have to promote them. Me. Not my publisher. Not my friends. Not any store or con I get a table at. I have to do the work.

Authors simply can not rely on anyone else to do the work for them. Even if we had the money to hire a publicist, I’d still be doing some promotion. Why? Because I should be.

Success, however you define it, isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, sweat, tears, trial and error. It needs me to push forward, work that extra five minutes every day. Ignore the doubt in my own head and get on Twitter.

It takes the same amount of effort I’m putting into my health.

Stop making excuses for why your book isn’t meeting your expectations and put in the work. Try something new, or polish up an old website. Take a deep breath and do a cold call to a local store about hosting you for an event.

Rearrange your life so you can start making being an author a priority, something that has to be done every single day. Because it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take years. And the longer you sit back and make excuses, the longer it’s going to take.

BB

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